Columbia Opportunity Resource (COR) started in 2005 to help promote all the good things about Columbia. It’s evolved into a nonprofit organization that generates countless hours of volunteer work, creates professional networks that better connect professionals with their community, and works to keep the Midlands’ best and brightest by strengthening their ties to the city they call home.
COR operates on three pillars: lead, serve and connect. Members are groomed for board positions at various local institutions, or tasked with addressing some of the city’s pressing issues. They perform volunteer work at events like the Special Olympics or take part in a Keep the Midlands Beautiful Project along Gervais Street. And they belong to an inclusive networking group that brings together professionals, artists, musicians and others seeking to play their part in building a better city.
“I think COR has been a catalyst for moving Columbia forward,” says Jeff Lawler, the organization’s Chairman of the Board. “We believe that vibrant networks attract, retain and motivate talented people. I feel like it’s a natural go-to for people to get connected.”
Retention has become a priority for COR, founded by Tameika Isaac Devine and Daniel Rickenmann, who are both serving on Columbia City Council. Whether talented professionals have moved to Columbia for work or recently graduated from the University of South Carolina, COR’s goal is to help them feel more connected to their city and make it their home.
“We’ve heard corporations say the same thing over and over again — we recruit people from out of town to come here and work in Columbia, and they aren’t getting connected to the community. And if they don’t have roots in the community, they’ll leave after a few years,” Lawler says.
“We understand that we’ve got the Darla Moore School of Business (at USC), and people are leaving Columbia to go to other jobs, even regionally — maybe New York and Chicago, but more often to Greenville, Charleston, Atlanta or Charlotte. What COR has built itself on is trying to retain talent by getting them involved with the community.”
To that effect, COR grooms its members to serve on boards directing organizations like the United Way of the Midlands or the Columbia Museum of Art. It’s helped attract events like the World Beer Festival held this year at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds with plans to return to the city in 2019.
COR provides members with volunteer opportunities from street cleanups to charity runs to community events. The organization’s annual gala, Time For Art, holds a silent art auction where bids are made with volunteer hours instead of money — an ingenious concept. Last year, the event generated over 2,500 committed service hours, the financial equivalent of $57,675, back into the Midlands.
“We want to give our members the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally,” Lawler says. “We want to be the reason they got involved with something in the community. We provide volunteer opportunities at events where we think our members will have fun.”
It’s all part of promoting and enhancing Columbia‘s vibrant, diverse community by engaging and retaining talented professionals in the region. Through strengthening the bonds between the professional community and the city, COR ensures a sustainable future for Columbia.
Interested in building a better city by becoming a member of Columbia Opportunity Resource, or by joining as a sponsor or corporate sponsor? Contact them at (803) 851-5906, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit the organization’s website at OurCOR.org.